MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach hosts pitch competition at MCITy

Published 3:40 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

The Thad Cochran Mississippi Center for Information and Technology hosted its first pitch competition on May 20, providing winning Mississippi-based startups with funds and networking opportunities.

As part of a partnership between the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach and Innovate Mississippi, the Vicksburg CoBuilders Pitch Competition was a qualifier for the annual business accelerator program facilitated by Innovate Mississippi.

“I thought the talent coming from Vicksburg was off to a really good start,” said Ryan Gilbrech, Senior Program Manager for MSU. “There’s been interest all over the state (in these pitch competitions).”

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Seven start-ups participated in the May 20 event, ranging from educational apps to beauty to fishing implements. First, second and third-place winners each walked away with prize money to use for their startups.

Dr. Jeffery P. Holland, MCITy director, praised the competition and its organizers for their hard work in bringing yet another new outreach program to the complex.

“This is our first proof of what we’re trying to do with MCITy,” Holland said. “It shows that we have entrepreneurs in our community, it shows that we have the opportunity to hear really interesting ideas and get to see some of them have a chance to blossom.”

In third place was ppxTEC LLC, owned by Debra Griffin. Operating as an app, ppxTEC LLC promotes seamless real-time quick data exchange and personal ownership of health records. Griffin took home $1,500.

In second place was MEGHA R&D LLC, owned by Jason McKenna. The concept behind MEGHA R&D is a sensor program to provide gravity imaging for the Department of Homeland Security in order to better screen items as they arrive in U.S. ports. McKenna took home $2,500 in prize money.

The first-place winner of the Vicksburg CoBuilders competition was Anirudh Aditya and his app, Tempo. Tempo is designed to be a “Learning Management System” for short-form videos, where creators can sell curated guides and audiences can learn from their favorite people. Aditya took home the $3,500 grand prize.

It was a stiff competition, Senior Program Manager Tasha Bibb said, but one that made her hopeful for future collaborations.

“Ryan and I both have backgrounds in startup development and we were brought here to focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Vicksburg,” Bibb said, adding her commendation for the participating teams. “Coming up with the idea is easy — executing it is the hard part.”

While this was the first pitch competition, there will be more scheduled over the coming year, Bibb said. However, Gilbrech added, there’s much more to MSU’s presence at MCITy than pitch competitions.

“We have the venture capitalist program that’s adapted from one in Starkville,” Gilbrech said. “It’s a student ecosystem, so adapting it to a stable city like Vicksburg has been a fun challenge. If you’re trying to get an investment or get a startup off the ground, it’s you against yourself — how good can you make your product?”

He said MSU’s role is also to serve as a means to champion technological advances from a startup perspective, especially as it relates to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ presence in Vicksburg.

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